Ford's 80 Years at Dagenham
Ford Dagenham Diesel Centre|
today and the original plant
Edsel Ford digging in at Dagenham (May 1928)
Ford AA production at Dagenham (October 1931)
The Ford Cortina Mk III was made at Dagenham
Today's Ford Fiesta ECOnetic
at Ford's Dagenham Diesel Centre
17th May, 2009
Ford Dagenham is celebrating 80 years of manufacturing as its engine
production rate tops 1,000,000 units a year.
The 475 acre complex on the Thames River, in London, England, where activities include diesel engine design and
manufacture, produced 1,050,000 units in 2008, ranging from 1.4-litre four-cylinder engines to 3.6-litre V8s for
delivery to vehicle assembly plants across Europe.
Rising demand for diesel engines had pushed Dagenham output up by over 16 per cent on the previous year. Following
£800 million of investment this decade, Ford Dagenham has the capacity to assemble 1.4 million engines a year.
Edsel Ford cuts the first turf
On 17th May, 1929, company founder Henry Ford's son, Edsel, was the first to dig into the low-lying marsh which
the company had bought five years earlier for £167,700. Around 20,000 piles had to be sunk 80 feet into the
ground to support the engine and car factory.
Today, the site employs a total of 4,000 people in engine, stamping and transport operations. Ford engineers and
production specialists at Dagenham are responsible for the development and assembly of diesel engines fitted to 28
different Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover and Peugeot Citroën models. Four-cylinder 1.4-, 1.6-, 1.8-, 2.0-, 2.2- and
2.4-litre units are produced alongside 2.7- and 3.0-litre V6 engines and a 3.6-litre V8.
Key roles for transport and stamping operations
Engines are taken from the production lines by on-site transport operations for onward delivery by road, rail and
sea. Railway lines service the site, which boasts a deep water jetty used to load and unload vessels travelling
between Ford plants. Dagenham's transport operations import and export 300,000 vehicles a year. They also handle the
15,000,000 stampings, such as vehicle body panels, bonnets and boot lids, and 1,800,000 wheels produced by
Dagenham's stamping and tooling operations.
Dagenham plant manager Dave Parker said: "Ford Dagenham is ideally positioned to give quick and easy access
to our markets which continue to sustain operations here after 80 years. Today, we're at the centre of Ford's fuel
efficiency drive as exemplified by the 76 mpg diesel engine supplied for the new Ford Fiesta. Ford Dagenham has a
rich manufacturing, economic and social heritage, which has provided the foundation for its competitive position
From AA truck to "Tiger" engine
Ford Dagenham took 28 months to build, from Edsel Ford digging the first turf with a silver spade in May 1929 to
its first vehicle, a Model AA truck, rolling off the production line in October 1931. Special trains moved 2,000 Ford
employees and their families to their new Dagenham homes from Trafford Park, Manchester – the company's first UK
Both the Model AA and another pre-World War II vehicle, the Model Y, are in Ford's Dagenham-based heritage
collection and will be driven to celebrate its 80th landmark. The Ford Model Y was the lowest priced saloon ever made,
with the Popular model introduced in 1935 being the first and only £100 car.
After the war, Dagenham reverted to vehicle and engine production from the 4x4 trucks and gun carriers required by
the military. Advanced Dagenham-built Ford Consul and Zephyr ranges were shown at the 1950 motor show, leading to the
expansion of the plant by 50 per cent to accommodate resulting demand.
By 1966 the original riverside building was dedicated to engine manufacturing, covering a 1.1 to 2.4 litre range.
Within 20 years, Ford Dagenham had secured its position as the company's only dedicated diesel engine facility
This was reinforced at the turn of the millennium when a second Ford Dagenham engine plant was commissioned, opened
by Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2003. Called the Dagenham Diesel Centre, the £325 million investment includes the
"Tiger" line making 1.6 engines for Ford's low CO2 ECOnetic range, which is enjoying increased demand as a result of
vehicle scrappage schemes announced across Europe in recent times.
FORD DAGENHAM 1929 – 2009
Eighty facts you didn't know about London's largest industrial employer
Do you know who I saw…….?
1. Eurovision song contest winner, Sandy Shaw, was a punch card operator at Dagenham before her singing career took
2. Billy Ocean worked as a session singer during his time at Dagenham until he was signed as a solo artist.
3. Former WBO world heavyweight champion, Henry Akinwande, swapped maintenance gloves for boxing gloves when he
left the Dagenham PTA for the world of professional boxing.
4. Maurice Buckmaster, an expert linguist, took time out of his Ford career to become a war hero with the Special
Operations Executive in France, before returning to Dagenham as PR boss.
5. Land speed record breaker, Sir Malcolm Campbell, was a director of Ford.
6. Maurice Gatsonides, inventor of the GATSO speed camera, won the 1953 Monte Carlo rally in a Dagenham built
Zephyr 6 – although it had a modified rear brake light to fool competitors into braking too late!
7. In 1955 a young student called Alex Trotman took his first tentative steps at Dagenham starting a career that
would see him become Ford Motor Company's first foreign-born chairman and CEO.
8. Dagenham's 10 millionth car and Ford's 250 millionth worldwide, a Fiesta, was driven off the line at Dagenham
in 1996 by retired boxing champion and local resident Frank Bruno.
9. The Dagenham Diesel Centre was opened in 2003 by then Prime Minister Tony Blair.
10. The UK's oldest man and only surviving WW1 veteran, 112-year-old Henry Allingham, held various engineering
positions at Dagenham until he retired in 1960.
11. Actress Idris Elba had a spell on Dagenham's production lines before being bitten by the acting bug.
12. Ford Dagenham's wind turbines were designed by award winning architect Sir Norman Foster.
13. Hollywood actor Winston George Ellis, footballer Luther Blisset and England physio Gary Lewin are expected at
Ford Dagenham for its fourth annual 'Kick It Out' anti-racism event in October 2009.
14. In the 19th century prison reformer Elizabeth Fry lived in Breach House located on land now part of Ford's
estate near the west turbine.
The grass is always greener on our side……
15. An early pioneer of recycling, Henry Ford fuelled Dagenham's power station by burning London's waste – 2,000
tons per week until 1939.
16. Today, Ford is working with a renewable energy company on a plan to use household waste diverted from landfill
turned into a synthetic gas to power its Dagenham estate.
17. Although an urban industrial site, Dagenham has its fair share of wildlife with over 50 different species of
birdlife making their home there.
18. And anglers are not ignored with freshwater fish varieties attracting them to fish Ford Dagenham's on-site
lake called The Breach.
19. For budding entomologists, five major classes of insect live in harmony with production including the rare
Bombardier beetle and the Adonis ladybird.
20. At 120 metres tall, Ford Dagenham's two wind turbines are double the height of Nelson's Column.
21. The Dagenham Diesel Centre is entirely powered by the two wind turbines, with a third on order.
22. Each Ford turbine can generate enough energy to power 1,000 homes.
23. A third turbine is going through planning permission to keep the Dagenham Diesel Centre's rising production
100 per cent wind powered.
24. Air in Dagenham Diesel Centre's production hall is filtered to minimise dust particles that could interfere
with the assembly of the latest hi-tech diesel engines.
25. The generator and blades section of the Dagenham turbine weigh 80 tonnes.
26. At 35 metres the turbine blades are as long as the wing span of a Boeing 737.
27. Ford Dagenham's existing two wind turbines have avoided over 6,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year since they
went up in 2004.
28. Other Dagenham eco-efficient processes prevent over 12,600 tonnes of waste going to landfill.
29. The use of renewable vegetable oil for metal working instead of mineral oil has resulted in over 500,000
litres of oil being saved.
30. Dagenham's eco-friendly policies helped Ford win Greenest Manufacturer of the Year.
31. Ford and the Forestry Commission have planted 10,500 trees as part of the environmental regeneration of the
32. Dagenham's 2.4-litre engine is part of the hybrid technology in London's new Wrightbus Electrocity single
33. From 1933 to 2003 a Ford ferry transported workers from south London to Dagenham to save them the time and
cost of crossing the Thames at Dartford or Blackwall.
The war years……
34. Frog Island was named after its use as a prisoner camp during the Napoleonic wars.
35. During the war the Dagenham jetty was used to evacuate 17,000 local residents.
36. Despite the factory rooftops being camouflaged to look like fields, 200 bombs fell on the Dagenham estate
during the Second World War.
37. Women first worked on the factory floor at Dagenham in March 1941.
38. In 1942 Dagenham Foundry workers raised £7,500 to buy a Spitfire, to assist the war effort – equivalent to
over £250,000 at today's prices.
39. The initial site measured just 295 acres, around 150 football pitches. Today Ford Dagenham covers 475 acres.
40. The original building was laid on a 'raft' of 22,000 concrete piles – laid end to end they would stretch
41. Nine million wooden blocks formed the factory floor.
42. Ford's power station generated enough electricity when first fired up in 1931 for a town of 180,000
43. Dagenham's employment peaked in 1953 when 40,000 worked on site.
44. At the same time the floor space peaked at four million square feet.
45. In 71 years Dagenham built 10,980,368 cars, trucks and tractors – enough vehicles end to end to circle the
world 10 times over.
46. In 2008 Dagenham produced over 1 million engines, fitted to 28 different models.
47. Ford Dagenham is the company's largest producer of diesel engines globally.
48. Ford Dagenham has received over £800 million of investment since the year 2000.
49. Dagenham has produced over 37,000,000 engines.
50. The Dagenham jetty can easily handle ships up to 24,000 tonnes.
51. Dagenham transport operations has access to a fleet of 2,000 trailers.
52. And uses 10 miles of railway tracks across the Dagenham estate which link into the main network.
All in a good cause….
53. Built before the introduction of the UK's National Health Service, Dagenham employees benefited from an
on-site doctor, trained nurses, operating theatre, X-ray equipment, dispensary and several first aid stations.
54. And nutrition wasn't neglected either with eight canteens ensuring workers were never more than two
minutes from their next snack/meal.
55. Thanks to the Ford Employee Development and Assistance Programme, Dagenham employees are offerred
reflexology, Indian head massage and hypnosis.
56. Ford's Dagenham estate includes a £37 million private/public college, the Centre for Engineering and
Manufacturing Excellence (CEME), led by Ford and the London Development Agency.
57. CEME runs Ford's apprentice programme, which includes 60 apprentice Dagenham employees.
58. To transfer employees from Trafford Park in Manchester to Dagenham, Ford provided special trains moving
families and belongings in the space of one weekend. Ford has supported the nearby Thames Gateway Youth Football
Project to the tune of £245,000 since 2000.
59. Transport Operations has used the trailers as the biggest mobile billboards on the road to support
charities including Childline, National Missing Persons Helpline and Transport for London's safer cycling
Today we will be mostly…..
60. Dagenham Tooling and Stamping produce 145,000 panels every day.
61. Dagenham's Tiger engine (1.4 & 1.6) is used by Ford, Mazda and Volvo.
62. Its Lion engine (2.7, 3.0 V6 & 3.6 V8) is used by Jaguar, Land Rover, Peugeot and Citroen.
63. Dagenham's Lynx engine (1.8) powers the UK's best selling car, the Focus, and is adaptable for marine use.
64. The Puma engine (2.0, 2.2 & 2.4) is used by Jaguar, Land Rover and in commercial vehicles from Ford,
Peugeot Citroën and Fiat.
65. Dagenham engines are shipped to Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Russia and Japan.
66. In an average year shipments of products from Ford Dagenham to customer plants will cover 50,000 nautical
67. Dagenham-produced vehicle body panels are shipped to Wales, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, Spain, Italy, Turkey,
Poland, Russia and the Midlands in the UK.
68. Engine design and assembly teams are based under one roof in Dagenham Diesel Centre for maximum cooperation
69. Ford Dagenham's truck trailers cover in excess of 10 million miles annually.
70. Dagenham engineering helped new Ford Fiesta scoop the 2009 What Diesel Car Of The Year Award.
And another thing….
71. Built on wasteland and reclaimed marshes, Dagenham was not the ideal choice of Ford of Britain's first
chairman, Lord Perry, who described it as "almost the worst possible choice" of a site.
72. Before Ford acquired the Dagenham site it was part of Britain's first flying ground for experiments with
73. In 1935 efficient production and minimising costs enabled Ford to offer the Dagenham built Model Y for just
£100 – the first and only time a full=sized family car was sold at such a price.
74. The Ford Motor Works Military Band, in its heyday in the 1950s, was held in such high esteem that band duty
took priority over any other work requirements.
75. The band won two major European championships, in 1954 and 1958, and played at the 1958 Royal Variety
76. The Ford machinists strike of 1968 started at Dagenham and paved the way for the Equal Pay Act 1970.
77. In the mid-1980s Ford apprentices at Dagenham restored the late King George VI's last car, a 1951 V8 Pilot
78. Car bodies were 'stroked' with ostrich feathers to remove static electricity before painting.
79. The Eurostar high speed rail link between St. Pancras and the Channel Tunnel travels through the
Ford estate before going underground to enter London.
80. Since 1972 only four cars, two of which were built at Dagenham, have topped the UK sales charts.
They are all Fords: Dagenham's Fiesta and Cortina plus the Escort and Focus.